Chicago Art Review


Caleb Weintraub @ Peter Miller Gallery by Steve Ruiz
September 30, 2009, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Reviews

Remember this psychotic painting at the Hyde Park Art Center‘s Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture show by Caleb Weintraub? It was the one with the kids with axes and the owl costumes and crushed space and the one which, when I wrote about that show, I complimented as the show’s “only piece to actually disturb me.” There was something feverish about that painting, small as it was; what the hell was going on? For some expansion and explanation, Weintraub’s work is up for review this month, and with a large exhibition (selling like fire) in the West Loop’s Peter Miller Gallery, we might find some answers.

Caleb Weintraub @ Peter Miller Gallery

Caleb Weintraub @ Peter Miller Gallery

Like a few other artists showing around town, Weintraub is working in a representational, illustrative, and narrative mode. Also like a few other artists, he’s working in a sorta post-apocalyptic, sorta surreal setting. While his images don’t describe events within a specific storyline, they do come out of a specific circumstance: some how or other, the children have taken over and, with a little of the supernatural afoot, are reinventing humanity and culture with blind idiosyncrasies and campfire voodoo. The artists statement lays it all down, but suffice to say that we have extremely literal illustrations referencing from a consistent, designed and imagined world.

Caleb Weintraub, Beard Contest

Caleb Weintraub, Battle of the Beards

If all that sounds negative, it might be. It is disarming to see a show with such direct, unabashedly contrived content, regardless of paintings quality. Weintraub is an excellent painter, and these images contain some very skilled pooling impasto (sort of ala Adam Scott) along with more traditional brushwork and spraying and more. Standing before a larger painting like Battle of the Beards orThe unlikely resurrection of General Burnside on account of his estimable whiskers, picking out the variety of techniques can a pursuit in itself. There are some paintings where the pallete suffers, is either overwhelmed or underwhelmed and seldom balanced, but they all fall squarely in the class of cool stuff to look at. From what I can gather, they’re his best paintings yet.

Caleb Weintraub, Things that may or may not go on in the dark, in the night

Caleb Weintraub, Things that may or may not go on in the dark, in the night

However, we’re still looking at pictures of children in forests with weird shit going on, which is an exhausted setting bordering on pop surrealist trope. It’s possible that the dynamic way that the paint has been used is the only thing separating Caleb Weintraub from your run of the mill Juxtapoze Magazine, Mark Ryden, middle brow bullshit, because boil off the backstory and the content is pretty much the same. The question that Sunday Games and Souveniers poses is really whether all that really matters, and whether making grungy, curiously painted pop surrealist art will bring it into the more serious contemporary art conversation that Ryden et al aren’t a part of. It certainly looks smarter.

Caleb Weintraub, Situation Room

Caleb Weintraub, Situation Room

I would say maybe. Weintraub’s work dances the issue’s razor so delicately that I can’t find an imbalance either way, and it wouldn’t be my place to push him one way or the other. I can say that my experience of viewing the show including a serious doubt at the imagery and content of the work, along with a dynamic pleasure of observing the way Weintraub works.

Caleb Weintraub, While wandering, we just came upon it there, like it had sprouted up out of the ground and we knew we would never see anything the same way again

Caleb Weintraub, While wandering, we just came upon it there, like it had sprouted up out of the ground and we knew we would never see anything the same way again

While I liked Caleb’s apparently absurd, mysterious imagery in the Hyde Park exhibition, I ultimately don’t care about his narrative, am not moved by the pictured drama, and connect with the work only when the paintings are good enough as paintings to make me forget them as illustrations. Thankfully that isn’t a rare event at Sunday Games and Souvenirs either. It’s not a perfect show, but there’s certainly plenty here to like.

I give it a:

6.9

Caleb Weintraub’s Sunday Games and Souvenirs runs September 11th, 2009 through October 17th, 2009 @ Peter Miller Gallery, 118 N. Peoria.

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Robyn O’Neil @ Tony Wight by Steve Ruiz
September 28, 2009, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Reviews

First some back story on Robyn O’Neil:

Robyn is a Houston all-star who, while not doing the media rounds, cranks out me-sized graphite drawings which may pass as illustrative, narrative, and serial, with one leading to the next in a giant comic book panel approach to story-telling. As the tale goes, a little drawing of a track-suited dude was the spark for the seven-year project, each drawing expanding on the mythology of the race of track-suited dudes and their trials and their tribulations and, with the 2007 execution of These final hours embrace at last; this is our ending, this is our past, their last moments too. The track-suited dudes were dead (long live the track-suited dudes), the end. What’s next?

For that answer we’ll need to cut to Tony Wight Gallery and On Sinking, their latest exhibition and O’Neil’s first or second substantial presentation of new works since killing all her characters.

Robyn O'Neil, Hurricane

Robyn O'Neil, Hurricane

The imagery picks up where it left off, at sea. Most works in this show feature the ocean and only the ocean, its strength visible and rendered in waves that ripple like muscle fiber, flexing and relaxing and tearing depending on the image. These landscapes or seascapes should be understood as abandoned, which they are in the sense that there aren’t any of the usual characters in view because (and here’s where the back story comes in) those characters are all dead as shit. They’re all pretty dramatic pictures of the arbitrary power of nature over man, the insignificance of man, etc, sort of, but not entirely, because there’s a problem and its a big one.

Robyn O'Neil, Almost Calm

Robyn O'Neil, Almost Calm

In trying to describe an apocalypse, and of a view of a totally abandoned landscape, the drawings suffer from an intractable element in the illustrative method which O’Neil uses. Simply put, when you describe a three-dimensional space, the drawings describe those areas visible to the viewer depending on his or her presence within the assumed space. Whether we are the artist or an imagined observer, the the narrative of the space assumes our existence. In short, the problem is that we’re still here.

Robyn O'Neil, A Song of So Many Beginnings

Robyn O'Neil, A Song of So Many Beginnings

If we’re still here, then we’re certainly not a track-suited dude, and if we’re not one of them, then it follows that we’ve just been looking in on their experiences like a kid with an ant farm. Sure, you may have learned a life lesson or two about the ultimate meaninglessness of existence and the purposelessness of labor in the face of inevitable and total mortality, but when the ants all die, you throw out the farm or start the whole cruel mess over again. These works provide an epilogue for her past narrative more than show a new direction or reading for her work, except perhaps to suggest that O’Neil just really likes drawing the ocean and big landscapes and would probably gladly continue doing so even without a narrative structure.

Robyn O'Neil, For the Next Breath

Robyn O'Neil, For the Next Breath

These post-track-suited-dudes drawings only occupy about half of the show, however. The rest is the kind of interesting, gestational work I would expect to see when starting a new body of work. The largest of them, For the Next Breath leans on scale the artist’s detailed working method to create a kind of landscape on the three-quarters-reversed view of an anonymous man’s head. The size and tight, meticulous rendering of the hair suggest a physical proximity which balance large, deep margins of untreated surface. The two other pieces in this theme, To the Left and Occurrence feature three other men, similar but not identical. As a total break from landscape and drawn narrative (the titles still suggest a story), these show O’Neil reaching into the toolbox of drawing, testing rhythm and scale as main thrusts, and finding some success. The Dismantled, and Turbulent Beliefs, while enjoyable, could even be considered one-offs.

Robyn O'Neil, The Dismantled

Robyn O'Neil, The Dismantled

In total, On Sinking is not the cohesive show that one might expect from Robyn O’Neil. While there are some strong pieces, the work can best be seen as evidence of a transition, suggestions of things to come. If you’ve followed O’Neil’s career, it may even be a popcorn and soda glimpse of O’Neil’s struggle to reinvent, that great and necessary fight which, while it may produce a few bad drawings, really separates the career artist from the post-grad star child. Love the work or not – it makes for a good exhibition.

I give it a:

7.8

Robyn O’Neil‘s On Sinking opened on Friday, September 11th and will run through Saturday, October 31st @ Tony Wight Gallery, 119 N. Peoria.



Paul Nudd @ Western Exhibitions by Steve Ruiz
September 25, 2009, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Reviews

Its quite possible that Scott Speh, owner and director of Western Exhibitions in the West Loop, is curating his 2009 exhibitions in order to destroy you. When examining the last few shows at the gallery, we find some aggressive works: first an eyeball assault show from Geoffrey Todd Smith show, followed by a Dutes Miller show aimed at giving you dick nightmares, and now comes Paul Nudd‘s VOMITROMITON with sights set on spoiling your dinner.

Paul Nudd, VOMITROMITON

Paul Nudd, VOMITROMITON

First the obvious: there are a lot of pieces in VOMITROMITON and not much difference between them. The main body of work, a collection of no less than twenty two paintings in the titular series, can as well be thought of as different instances of the same set, with the same colors and materials applied in very similar ways in each. Their strength and variation comes out in their compositions, which while also more alike than not, exist in blobs and bacterial nests that tell the same kind of surface history as the organic development of mold or boils.

Paul Nudd, Vomitromiton 14 (detail)

Paul Nudd, Vomitromiton 14 (detail)

While certainly gross looking up close, with pink micro turds and shower-drain nets of questionable hair alongside fake vomit and shit-brown puddles of paint, the pieces are quite traditionally attractive from any distance more than eleven inches. The pinks and greens and browns work, and the compositions are active and playful. Without the grime and slime connection, each painting would be a rather conventional exercise in limited form, abstract composition. I don’t mean that the slime and grime can or should be looked over; part of the fun of these paintings is that each form, while being used abstractly, has a reference as specific as puke or as general as “questionable goo I’d rather not touch.”

Paul Nudd, Son of 4-B

Paul Nudd, Son of 4-B

In addition to the paintings series are another eight works on paper, each following the a similar material theme but on a smaller stage. Like much of Nudd’s work, the collages include textual riffs on descriptive phrases, such as one of the lists on Dog Lungs reads: Hog Lungs, Lung Spots, Pink Lung Pox, Liquid Lung Pus. This rambling, punning approach seems perfectly in line with the creation of the works themselves, each an experiment, topping the last like a fifth-grade lunchroom contest to see who can gross out the best.

Paul Nudd

Paul Nudd, Dog Lungs, Black Dog Lungs, Brown Milk Sac, & Black Brains.

I have a feeling that Nudd, with an imagination full of black milk and sinus cakes could plumb his mind for a thousand such drawings and paintings. While each are badass in their own right, the sheer quantity makes individual examination difficult. It’d be extremely difficult to pick a favorite among the bunch. The single standout came in Burning Head Bush, the singular figurative work in the bunch. Its demand for attention came not only because it is a fucked up, awesome painting, but from of its deviation from the group.

Paul Nudd, Burning Head Bush

Paul Nudd, Burning Head Bush

There were a few other tangential pieces in this area, proving the prodigious output of the artist and turning the office into a kind of high quality Paul Nudd gift shop. Also featured was the video DirtBurths, an honestly revolting piece that really has to be seen to be appreciated. His Slug Text Drawings, arranged like wallpaper behind the Western Exhibitions office, are fun for their use of type and language and I want one.

Paul Nudd, Slug Text Drawings

Paul Nudd, Slug Text Drawings

I have no problem with gross out art, and having followed Nudd’s work from the top bleachers for a few years, have accepted his use of a disgusting aesthetic because I believe he’s trying to do more than turning my stomach. I don’t see him using the crust subversively, neither questioning the human capacity for revulsion or trying to root out why we’re disgusted by a particular form or texture, in fact the art depends in part on our unquestioned ability to be find pretty random forms gross. It has to be gross. There would be no fun, no beauty in it otherwise.

Still, when faced with a room which features only that specific aesthetic – and so much of it – the experience is reduced. I imagine Nudd may be the perfect artist to include in a group exhibition or museum collection, a context where his work would be all the grosser and challenging, fuming gas and splashing.

I give it a:

7.8

Paul Nudd‘s VOMITOMITON runs Friday, September 11th through Saturday, October 10th @ Western Exhibitions, 119 N Peoria St, #2A.

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Weekend Preview: 9/Party by Steve Ruiz
September 25, 2009, 12:56 am
Filed under: Chicago Art Preview

Some cool openings this weekend, and here are the one’s I’m trying to see. Check out the bigger lists here or here or anywhere, really.

Group Painting Show @ Ebersb9

Five shows in and already Ebersb9 is getting out of the apartment space and upgrading to something newer, bigger, but hopefully just as cozy. Come see the last show at at the titular apartment, a group painting show featuring Howard Fonda, Tyson Reeder, Paul Wackers, Sabastian Vallejo, and Amy Mayfield. The show opens this Friday, September 25th, 6-9 PM @ ebersb9, 1359 W. Chicago, apartment B9.

Paul Wackers, Laboratory Experiments

Paul Wackers, Laboratory Experiments

Tales from the Bubble @ Co-Prosperity Sphere

Berry Sanders’ Tales from the Bubble, big black and white narrative oil paintings on paper inspired in part by Albert Camus? Sold. Stick around afterward for the release of this season’s Proximity Magazine, their fifth edition so far, complete with performances by Christo Mofisto, Magical Beautiful, The Gaze , and Mahjongg’s Hunter Husar. The show opens this Friday, September 25th, from 6-9 PM, with the Proximity release party to overlap and follow from 9-11 PM, all @  Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S Morgan St.

Berry Sanders

Berry Sanders

Trevor Reese @ Believe Inn

Not just a science show, its Trevor Reese’s Not If, But When. That’s all I know, and thats enough for now. Opens Saturday, September 26th from 6-10 PMBelieve Inn, 2043 N. Winchester.

Trevor Reese

Trevor Reese

Philip Von Zweck’s Symposium @ threewalls

As a joint to his show, The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May ’98, artist Philip Von Zweck will be hosting a symposium to discuss the critical history that (sort of) informs the show, featuring talks by Carrie Gundersdorf, Melissa Johnson, Annika Marie, Simon Anderson, and Craig Carson. The event will be this Saturday, September 25th at 12 Noon – 5 PM @ threewalls, 119 N. Peoria.

Philip von Zweck

Philip von Zweck

Thats all I plan to see, except for you, around!

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Substance (for Julian) / Carl Suddath @ The Suburban by Steve Ruiz
September 24, 2009, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Reviews

This last Sunday I made it back to Oak Park for the latest opening at The Suburban, which I experienced for all of twenty minutes before the sky opened and I had to run splashing for cover. While I didn’t have long to spend with the work, both Carl Suddath‘s installation in the small space and Tilman‘s installation in the larger held attention for what time I had.

Tilman, Substance for Julian

Tilman, Substance for Julian

According to Tilman, his “Substance (for Julian)” was created in part as a kind of memorial piece for the late Julian Dashper and, though the work did incorporate striking spacial elements and break the installation space in an interesting way, it is the blend of collaboration and memorial that makes Substance (for Julian) the compelling work that it is. Though Tilman and Dashper had collaborated in the past, this work comes off as an imagined collaboration in the present, with the artist allowing his memory and close understanding of Dashper’s work and working process to direct the piece. The result is an installation that, despite being about space and abstraction, speaks most strongly to the human and artistic tradition of legacy and influence as memorial.

Carl Suddath

Carl Suddath

Carl Suddath

Carl Suddath

I found Carl Suddath‘s sculptural installation to be pretty calm and reflective, an exercise in the rather painterly elements of color and light and texture more than form. The two sculptural pieces, one a constructed and painted abstraction and the other a cut and raw piece of wood, produced a balanced and subdued presence within the space. I had a feeling the constructed piece had been made and built and placed so as to take advantage of the light cast through the space’s small window, but with the skies ahead a half-lit softbox there wasn’t much light to work with. Between the colors Suddath employed, the colors of the floor and wall, and the even lighting over it all, everything felt confident and quiet.

The two spaces worked well together, and each was a rare find. I wish I had had the time for the kind of conversations which help inform more layered work like these two, but the weather wanted me see it on its face so I give it a:

7.3

Tilman’s “Substance for Julian” / Carl Suddath opened Sunday, September 20th and will run through to Sunday, October 25th at The Suburban, 125 North Harvey Avenue, in Oak Park.

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Seven Artists of The Week: blow down by Steve Ruiz
September 23, 2009, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Artists of the Week

This weeks picks from Ryan. Best batch yet. Click images for links to more.

Aragna Ker, Superman (zarathustra)

Aragna Ker, Superman (zarathustra)

Chuck Webster, Summer Bomb Pop

Chuck Webster, Summer Bomb Pop

Darina Karpov, Loophole

Darina Karpov, Loophole

Jeff Davis, The Sovereign Lamp of Self

Jeff Davis, The Sovereign Lamp of Self

Paul Wackers, Crystal Lake

Paul Wackers, Crystal Lake

Nathan Redwood, Inquiry

Nathan Redwood, Inquiry

Scott Reeder, Suicidal Shape (Study in Red)

Scott Reeder, Suicidal Shape (Study in Red)

Somethings in the oven.

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Weekend Preview: no wrong do it again by Steve Ruiz
September 17, 2009, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Chicago Art Preview

What to see this weekend? Everything you missed and everything that was too crowded last weekend to really appreciate. There are so many new shows up in the city that this weekend’s line of openings almost seem cruel by adding more to the backlog. Whats worse is that this weekend’s shows are plenty strong too.

Eric Ellis @ The Coop

Come argue check out new work from artist and designer Eric Ellis. Don’t be afraid to make fun of him over the whole Geoff Mcfetridge sketchbook issue (see comments). The show opens the same date as this post (so if you’re reading this, get down there), Thursday, September 17th from 6 – 10 PM @ The Coop, 845 W Fulton Market.

Eric Ellis

Eric Ellis

Seacurrent @ Experimental Sound Studio

Chicago group Luftwerk (made up of artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero) will be showing off their newest piece, a sound and video installation which sounds like it looks as good as it sounds. Looks good. Opening reception this Friday, September 18th, from 6 – 9 PM, with a live piano performance by Hans-Peter Pfammatter at 7 PM @ Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood.


Luftwerk @ Experiment Sound Studio

Luftwerk

GroupSolo @ Swimming Pool Project Space

Here’s a new twist on the one night show: Carol Jackson, Tom Long, Jeffrey Grauel, and Diego Leclery will each take turns holding 45 minute solo exhibitions at Swimming Pool Project Space, with the building and installing of each show visible to the audience. While the four top shelf artists are enough of a draw, I’m also pretty excited to see how (and whether) this really comes off. The show opens (and runs in totality) this Saturday, September 19th, from 7 – 10 PM @ Swimming Pool Project Space, 2858 W. Montrose Ave.

Tom Long

Tom Long

Group Show for Daniel Pink @ Vega Estates

The last show at the Vega Estates project in Pilsen is all for Daniel Pink, former speech writer for Al Gore and big supporter of the copy. Curated by Lane Relyea, the show has Curt Bozif and Matthew Metzger (with Amy Adler, Conrad Bakker, Vince Leo and Sharon Lockhart) exploring and praising the photocopy and other dupe forms as talismans of progress. Check out the opening this Saturday, September 19th, from 6 – 10 PM @ Vega Estates, 723 W. 16th Street.

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Polonia and Other Fables @ Renaissance Society

New photos from Allan Sekula in a show titled Polonia and Other Fables look at the social impact of global economics, all with a well researched Chicago focus. Opens this Sunday, September 20th @ The Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis.

Alan Sekula

Alan Sekula

SUBSTANCE (for Julian) @ The Suburban

Michelle Grabner et al of the famous Oak Park backyard art space will be celebrating their 11th year of operation with and around the opening of SUBSTANCE (jor Julian) by the artists Carl Suddath and Tilman. Wit and abstraction and hot coals this Sunday, September 20th, from 2-4 PM @ The Suburban, 125 N. Harvey Ave., Oak Park.

Carl Suddath

Carl Suddath

Like I said, plenty to see! Keep an eye out for anything I missed.

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